While coaching on a global accelerator programme recently, one of the teams pitched to kill an idea they had been working on for the last four weeks. In front of senior leaders from across their business, they essentially recommended their idea be killed and that they should be removed from the accelerator programme.
From the 20+ teams present, they were the only ones who were willing to stand up in front of their peers and leadership and report that following an extensive customer development phase, there was simply no market for their product idea. They had spoken to a lot of people, tried to pivot but fundamentally nobody wanted to buy what they wanted to sell.
As innovation coaches we had preached the ‘fail fast’ mentality and to ‘think of the time and money saved’ by killing a bad idea. But we were not the ones who had to stand up in front of our colleagues to report the kill.
Reflecting on this, where else in business are we brave enough to just stop? Nobody gets halfway through an office redesign and stops because people don’t like it; marketing campaigns rarely get pulled because they are not delivering the numbers. In fact, in the corporate world we are rewarded for completing projects regardless if they are delivering the right thing. Sometimes it can be impossible to stop projects as they almost take on a life of their own with sponsors, steering groups and KPI’s – it’s very rare we just stop something. So it's really not surprising many teams were not brave enough to kill their idea on the accelerator programme.
Some good reasons to kill a bad idea
Customer Desirability – if people don’t want your product or don’t buy into your value proposition then maybe it’s time to kill. The good news is that customer desirability is one of the easiest things to test. I recently met a game developer who takes new game concepts to his local student pub and sees if he can get anybody interested in playing an early prototype. If students are willing to put down their beer for ten minutes he reckons he’s on to something.
Team Passion – Passion for ideas can ebb and flow depending on where you are in the innovation process. But if the team energy and passion is really on the slide then the death bell maybe knelling. If the team is not passionate about the idea, how can they persuade investors and customers to be interested?
Market Size – It’s really hard to develop new ideas and the size of the prize at the end has to be worth it. This will vary in different organisations depending on strategy and scale, but always bear this in mind.
Technical Feasibility – Sometimes the best ideas just cannot be executed due to technical or even legislative constraints. This can sometimes be the most difficult ideas to kill particularly if customer desirability has been proven. These ideas can be put into the ‘icebox’ to be cryogenically frozen and revived when the constraints are lifted.
Killing ideas is not as easy as your innovation coach may lead you to believe, particularly in the corporate world when we are programmed to ‘deliver’ rather than just stop. However, there are some good reasons why sometimes it’s the right decision to kill.
As for the team who killed their idea in the accelerator, they got the biggest ovation of the day, mobbed by senior leaders after the presentation and the remaining teams were fighting over recruiting them. They are going to be just fine, because sometimes it is time to kill …
If your organisation needs help with your kill process or even growing some new stuff then please get in touch at Hello@freestyleinnovation.co.uk